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​26th November 2016​: Society of Garden Designers Autumn Conference 'Out of the Shrubbery'

Expecting a day discussing new ways of using shrubs in garden design I have to say the day did not do justice to many wonderful shrubs now available for garden designers. Nigel Dunnet showed us his brilliant planting at The Barbican...with wonderful naturalistic plantings of perennials with just a very few shrubs ( the usual suspects too) added in. Not much new there. Juan Grimm showed his wonderful work in Chile and many mature gardens using mainly native species. Roger Phillip's work at Eccleston Square did show some lovely shrub planting of a traditional nature and was entertaining too. The extremely dry conditions of some new Greek gardens made by Jennie Gay and Piers Goldson did justify using native species tolerant of extremes of drought and they are doing some lovely planting.

I am getting tired of naturalistic planting schemes. I still question how do we use all those wonderful shrubs and small trees....Styrax, Euonymus, Magnolia, Cornus, Clethyra, Enkianthis etc etc

A disappointing day.

I'm underplanting  a light woodland with bold groups of shrubs especially those which flower in early spring before the leaves overhead cast shade. I'll keep you posted on how it works out!

November 2016: Botanical Trek to Mount Victoria and Mt Phon Kan Rhazi, Myanmar

Wonderful, if testing, trip to Myanmar where, with some great Irish plants people, we climb Mount Victoria( 3,053m) and enjoyed its wonderful flora especially seeing delphiniums, anenomes, thalictrum and a host of other perennials in flower. Then on to Northern Myanmar to Mt Phon Kan Razi (11,926ft) after 5 days climbing to the rhododendron forests. Acer wardii was the star with wonderful Autumn colour.

2nd September 2016: Irelands Walled Gardens Study Day at Russborough, Co Wicklow

Over a hundred people attended this workshop in the Hippodrome at Russborough. A great overview from Terence Reeves Symth on the history, design and location of some 8000 Walled Gardens in Ireland. Over 150 images! What potential there is for growing in these wonderful places throughout the country....it is great that through history farmers have rarely demolished the walls so most are intact and waiting.

Some very detailed talks on glasshouses and bricks.....so lots of expertise out there.

I gave a talk....hoping to give a practical insight in what is involved in the restoration, planting and further care of walled gardens. It is fortunate that a few private walled gardens are being restored but most will have to have some commercial aspect to survive....vegetable or cut flower production, events or alternative compatible businesses. Having seen some community led developments in Roscommon recently, see below, that too is another option. But a difficult one to find funding for (as the start up costs are very great) as well as suitable management and reliable working arrangements with gardeners and growers.

Great talk by Margaret Gormley on the Walled Gardens within the Phoenix Park and all the works that are going on there.

26th August 2016​: To the best tree and shrub wholesale nursery in Ireland today.

Great selection of unusual plants grown so very well.Always a pleasure to visit.

Most Garden Centres are limited in their selection. Good plants are available

....keep asking!

17th- 18th August 2016: Annual 'Hoe Down' with Kitty Scully and Colm O'Driscoll from Airfield Gardens

This year, we headed north west on our 'Hoe Down'......our annual day out with lots of garden chat and gossip, an open road and minds..........with visits to see what other gardeners and growers are doing and growing. One garden visit led to another as we covered Roscommon, Mayo and Galway.

First stop was Croghan Organic Garden, a community garden hidden amongst the fertile fields of Roscommon. Arriving unannounced on packing day, we were given a great tour of this productive corner of Roscommon by the manager who, despite it being his day off gave us a terrific and informative tour. Immaculate tunnels filled with a rotation of crops grown for local restaurants. A shed with home recycled wood burning stove must be a cosy spot for planning in mid winter.

​Hungry by now, we were recommended Drumanlira Farm Kitchen in Boyle. What a brilliant concept. Great value menu, home grown Dexter and Angus Beef burgers eaten in a sunny front garden. Quite delicious. And great to see a steady stream of regulars collecting their preordered lunch in brown paper bags.

Then on to another recommended garden down the road...Knockvicar Organic Garden.What productivity here! Tunnel after tunnel filled with crops all grown on richly fertile boggy soil. Kales in one. Huge leaved cucurbits in another. All full and fantastically healthy. There are lots of events and ideas here.

Then on to Drimbawn Garden where I have been working for the last 12 years. Hardworking Head Gardener, Frank Steffans, gave us a tour lasting two hours there was so much to be seen! Terraces filled with flowers, borders, woodland walks, a productive tunnel and fantastic views over lake and mountain. All immaculate. This garden is open as part of the Clew Bay Garden Trail each year.

Next day in the pouring rain we drove across the mountains to Kylemore where we joined the many many visitors who were also visiting. Head Gardener Anya spent the morning with us which was great as she has a big patch to cover, from the walled garden to all the grounds. 2,500 people visited this garden a few days previously and not infrequent to see 30 buses lined up in the car park. Location Location.